A digital map applicationhas revolutionized the way emergency responders are finding locations in rural areas of Frederick County, Va. The county’s IT department and GIS division created a mobile map book that operates on smartphones and tablets without using an Internet connection, giving personnel a more reliable look at surrounding areas.
Responders can type in an address, and the program will automatically flip to the appropriate map, giving additional details such as the locations of fire hydrants and boundaries. Launched in May, the mobile map book replaces the paper-based map books that county fire departments had been using for years.
Patrick Fly, GIS manager for Frederick County, said his team was asked to update the paper maps last year. While some initial efforts on the project were made, a staff member suggested upgrading to a digital format. Fly ran the numbers, discovering that not only would a digital map book be cheaper to produce, but it would also be easier to update.
Built entirely in-house, the county took advantage of software it already owned, including Esri ArcGIS for Desktop, Sublime Text and Adobe Dreamweaver. The only cost was staff time.
The app is roughly 400 MB in size and includes 500 images. But unlike other mapping programs, the county’s mobile map book doesn’t connect to the Web or a server to work: It’s entirely self-contained on a person’s mobile device.
“One of the issues we have is we don’t have guaranteed cellular service throughout the county,” Fly said. “So part of the goal of this project was to allow it to be used on a mobile device, but at the same time understanding there might not be cellular service to access it. We had to keep it small, but have all the data built into it.”
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